Sleep apnoea is far more than just snoring associated with brief periods of suspended breathing while asleep. It is an important risk factor for cardiovascular disease and diabetes, so it is well worth asking patients whether they suffer breathing problems during the night and then following up those who do. More than one-third of people with sleep apnoea have hypertension, so measuring blood pressure is important in assessing risk factors and then establishing appropriate preventive treatment.
Atrial fibrillation (AF) is one of those terms that we are hearing more and more in general practice. It is an important risk factor for stroke – particularly in older people – making it a good candidate for primary care teams to target in efforts to prevent cardiovascular disease.
Angina is a common problem in primary care, affecting around one in every six patients aged 65 years and over. It is predominantly chest pain due to transient myocardial ischaemia caused by coronary artery disease. Episodes of angina are typically caused by exertion or emotion, and are relieved by rest. Treatment with drugs and/or surgery that improves blood flow to the heart and lifestyle changes can significantly improve patients' quality of life and survival.
Thromboembolism is a common complication of heart disease – particularly in patients with atrial fibrillation (AF). Decisions to prescribe an anticoagulant are based on assessment of an individual patient's risk of clotting and the side-effects of treatment. With growing numbers of patients with heart disease, the number of patients on anticoagulants is increasing and there is a shift to primary care-based anticoagulation clinics. Practice nurses have a central role in educating patients about anticoagulation therapy and in monitoring their ongoing care.
Over half of all adults in the UK are overweight, according to latest figures. The number of people who are obese has tripled over the last 20 years, and is still rising. But is weight management an issue for primary healthcare teams? There is clear evidence that it is – with obesity being directly related to increased risk of death and a range of chronic diseases. Obesity reduces life expectancy, on average, by nine years.
At long last there is some encouragement for general practices to optimise detection and management of obesity. The new General Medical Services (GMS) contract includes 208 from a total of 1050 points available in the Quality and Outcomes Framework that are affected by weight loss, offering a major financial incentive to general practices to encourage patients to lose weight.
Foot complications are very common in patients with diabetes. At least one in six diabetics develop foot ulcers at some point in their lives. This article reviews why foot complications occur in diabetes, how you can detect foot problems early, and treatment and prevention strategies. The National Service Framework for Diabetes suggests that targeted foot care for people at high risk could save hundreds of amputations a year. By detecting complications earlier, we can make a real difference to patients' lives, reducing morbidity, improving quality of life and even saving limbs.
The number of people who smoke has fallen over the past 30 years under a barrage of tobacco control measures, including increasing the price of cigarettes, advertising bans, and health education campaigns. But, one in four premature deaths in the UK (adults aged 35–65 years) are still caused by smoking, and a study published recently warned that today's smokers puff their way through more cigarettes and start at an earlier age than smokers of fifty years ago. This means that, on average, men who smoke now die ten years earlier than men who don't smoke.
Can primary care make an impact on this ongoing problem? The good news is yes – and the new GMS contract is finally offering us incentives to include smoking in our health promotion activities. In this article, we give you the ammunition to put smoking cessation on your agenda – with the health and economic reasons why it makes sense to help patients quit. Practice nurse Rosemary Evans then explains how she does it in her Docklands practice.